‘December Oli’ wishing readers Hauoli Makahiki Hou

  • Dawn Fraser Kawahara / Special to The Garden Island

    This makahiki star map Christmas card is the work of C. and M. Abing for Coral Cards, Hawaiian Resources Co., Ltd., Waipahu, Oahu.

Right now our ears are particularly attuned to the approaching stop-start rumble of our mail carrier’s truck because of the anticipated flurry of Christmas cards arriving to alleviate the tedium of bills and unwanted flyers. It’s heartwarming to hear from faraway friends and relations via a bright holiday card and note. That doesn’t discount the artistic e-cards that arrive, but somehow finding in that mailbox personally-addressed envelopes bearing news of people we care for underlines that “old time” holiday feel.

Over many years I’ve particularly enjoyed receiving Christmas mail from cousins in Australia and England bearing unique postage stamps. Noticeably different artwork emblazons their cards — everything from koala bears through the views of Sydney Harbor to an English garden in winter, complete with red, red robin.

Speaking of birds, my husband remarked as he added a snowy owl card to our bright display of cards received that an unusual number of this year’s cards feature birds. He was right: I checked and saw everything from redheaded woodpeckers to nuthatches and jays. That started me thinking that next year I’ll pass up the “slippahs,” tropical foliage and “Santa-at-the-Beach” designs on the Hawaiian-style cards we like to send to those far from these sunny shores. We may have to check our Kokee and Kauai Museum shops to find representations of iiwi, apapane, anianiau or any other of our endangered bird jewels island artists are choosing to represent in their greeting card designs.

This year, heading from our pen and posting to “Oz” and the U.K. (besides Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Washington and California) will be some “fun” Hawaiian-style star maps that caught our eye. We hope their graphic subliminally carries the message of what great voyagers the Polynesians were — and still are, sailing thousands of miles of open ocean via waa, canoes, such as “Hokulea” (“The Star of Gladness”) and Kauai’s own “Namahoe.” These were named respectively for the brightest star in the constellation Boötes, Arcturus and “The Twins” of the Greek constellation, Gemini …

… which reminds me to dedicate this column to two young friends of mine, Adrian and Liam, brothers who even at a tender age preceding elementary school became starwatchers. They’re the boys who introduced “Uncle Dee” to the stars-and-planets identification smart phone app when he was thinking to show them his constructed paper Astrorama that requires a flashlight to read star names.

At our most recent evening beach picnic, watching for the comet near “Orion’s belt,” I challenged the older boy to come up with a Hawaiian star app using Hawaiian star names and (possibly) patterns. He might draw knowledge from Nainoa Thompson’s star compass, the basic mental construct for navigation, which names the houses of the stars — the places where they rise and set over the ocean — essential to wayfinding. That is, Dear Readers, if one of you doesn’t do this first. Having said that, I wish you well at this Makahiki time and offer you my gift of my original “December Oli” (chant), which corresponds with the Hawaiian month that took its name from a great navigator Makalii, who is said to have steered the first canoes to the islands.


Dawn Fraser Kawahara, author and poet, made her home on Kauai in the 1980s. She and her husband, a retired biology teacher, live with books, music and birds in Wailua Homesteads. The writer’s books may be found in local outlets and on Amazon. “December Oli” was published in “Behold Kauai, Modern Days — Ancient Ways.” For more information, go to tropicbirdpress@gmail.com.

  1. Susan Campbell December 24, 2018 10:21 am Reply

    What a lovely article. I too enjoy receiving cards from family and friends far away. I especially enjoy their Christmas letters, catching us up on what’s happening in their lives, both good times and not-so-good ones. They keep us connected in a way the internet never could.

    Merry Christmas, Dawn, to you and yours! Did you see the comet?

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